Grid and bear it: a survival guide to a total power shutdown
Heed these day-to-day tips as you ride out the 10 dark and dangerous days it will take to power up SA again
I used to believe that the national power grid couldn’t fail completely because someone, somewhere, would prevent that from happening. I now believe that that someone has probably been working at a large bank since 2016 and has just sent their CV to London. And so, in the interests of being prepared, I offer you a survival strategy for getting through the 10 days it will take to switch the grid back on once it goes down.
Day 1: Gather up all the supplies you have been buying for the past month and pack them into the large trailer you bought a week ago. Put your family and pets into your car, and meet the convoy of your loved ones at the pre-arranged spot on the highway. Then proceed in a safe and calm manner towards Namibia or Botswana. Once in Windhoek or Gaborone, unpack you stuff into the Airbnb you rented a month earlier. Send thoughts and prayers to everyone back home.
If, however, you are like me and haven’t done any planning or pre-booking or hoarding, here’s what you do.
Day 1: Wander out in the street with a bemused smile, speaking to your neighbours for the first time in years, with questions like: “Sjoe, so it actually went down, hey?” Only open your fridge in short, quick bursts so the milk doesn’t go off. Tell yourself that no internet or cellphone reception will be good for you because you’ll read more books.
Day 2: Start reading a book. Become frustrated that the book isn’t congratulating you for reading it by giving you thumb-up signs and smiley faces. Try to figure out if rubbing your hair with a balloon will generate enough electricity to let you get onto Facebook for a minute. When you see your neighbours running out to their car, bent over and huddled together, tell yourself that staying home is always the best option in these situations. Shower with the hot water in your geyser. Sing loudly to give yourself confidence, and also to drown out the sound of what you hope are balloons popping on someone’s head a few blocks away. Scrub thoroughly because this is your last shower for the next eight days.
Day 3: When you are woken to the distant sound of semi-automatic balloons, accept that you are the person in the disaster movie who doesn’t make it because they haven’t left in time: in the credits, you are “Petrol Tanker Explosion Victim 6”. Reach page 50 of the book and congratulate yourself for rediscovering the lost art of focus. Sniff the milk before you make your muesli.
Day 4: Wave to the troops rumbling down your street in armoured vehicles. Ask them for food in exchange for one hour of your professional services: lots of SANDF troops need web designers or yoga instruction. Thank them for the Kit Kat they throw at you.
Day 5: Eat one finger of the Kit Kat. Make it a bit special: light a candle (remember to make sure you’ve papered over all the windows so the marauding bands of looters don’t notice you) and with each bite say something you’re grateful for. Just don’t say it loudly, because of marauders.
Day 6: Save energy by not getting out of bed. If you decide to sob while you stay in bed, remember to catch your tears in a plastic jug, to drink later. Eat the second finger of Kit Kat. And the third, and the fourth.
Day 7: Shake things up a bit by redoing your home. Loosen up the feng shui by moving the bedroom into the bathroom. Sleeping in the bathtub has many benefits, like being able to pull your mattress onto you to form a soothing roof. Jut remember not to roll onto the carving knife you brought with you to bath-bed.
Day 8: Break out some of those old clothes you kept in the top shelf because you hoped you’d lose weight one day. Do a small runway show for yourself, enjoying how those clothes now hang off you like Dior off a 18-year-old. Stay away from the windows. Round off your day by going up on the roof and watching the fireworks as the SANDF exchanges tracer bullets with the Revolutionary Iron Fisting Brigade, a gang run by one Prophet Chakalaka who has just crowned himself king of your city.
Day 9: Be proactive. Write your will in muesli on the floor. If you die, it will make things easy for your next of kin, and if you live you can celebrate by mixing it with the rainwater you collected and enjoy a feast.
Day 10: Scream and clutch your eyes when the lights come on at 3am. Hiss: “I renounce you, Satan!” as your microwave beeps into life. Spend the morning stuffing tissue paper into all the plug holes so that the electrical vapours don’t seep out and poison you. Then go onto Facebook and read comments by people who think they’ll probably give the ANC one more chance.